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New bill aims to curb hooliganism in Turkey

Lawmakers have proposed a new bill with hopes that it will discourage violent behaviour during Turkish football matches.

Violence, hooliganism and crowd disturbances are all synonymous with Turkish football, unfortunately. Whether it’s fans attacking opposing fans, rival team players or coaches, it seems the sport still isn’t free of such despicable behaviour.

To curb such incidents, the country’s ruling party, the Justice & Development Party (AK Party) has drafted a bill hoping to clean up Turkish football.

The new bill introduced prison terms of up to three years for anyone “disrupting the course and security of the competition.”

It also calls for prison terms of up to one year for unauthorized people entering the locker rooms of teams during matches. Apart from fans, the bill also introduces administrative fines for sports clubs not employing security guards during matches.

In football-mad Turkey, violent fans’ actions have resulted in the deaths of fans of rival teams and have largely been spared punishment except in cases involving injuries and murder.

Fans involved in such incidents are often banned from matches. One day after draft bill was announced, 30 defendants went on trial over incidents in a 2018 game between Fenerbahce and Besiktas. They are accused of injuring Senol Gunes, the Besiktas coach at the time, and attempting to injure Besiktas player Caner Erkin by hurling foreign objects onto the pitch during their heated Super Lig duel.

They are currently facing prison time for the injuries they caused.

Under the bill, which has 20 articles, the definition of “competition area,” which currently includes the stadium and similar structures, will be expanded to “places allocated to players and [club] employees.”

This is a precaution to stop unauthorized entry into change rooms by fans or officials of rival clubs, a situation which occurs often Turkish football matches, leading to scuffles. Clubs will also be required to pick a board member whose duty will be overseeing stadium security.

Fans who smuggle sharp or flammable objects that may cause injury into the stadium, training grounds or buses, trains and other vehicles fans travel in will be sentenced to prison for up to two years. In a bid to stop fans who use necessary Passolig passes belonging to other fans to watch games, the new bill requires fans to use bio-metric IDs to enter the stadium.

The bill also increases fines for offensive chants during matches. Chants containing threats and insults will be subject to fines and if they contain racism or discrimination based on faith, language, ethnicity or gender, they will be subject to a prison sentence of up to three years.

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